It has been a watershed year of impact for Centre Foundation and its partners.  Over 170 community members - those in the non-profit sector and members of the public who support their work - gathered for Centre Foundation’s 2014 Annual Dinner on Friday evening.  Annual awards were distributed and an announcement was made public for the first-time, revealing the grant proposal that received the inaugural $100,000 grant through the new, transformational granting program called Centre Inspires.


"Our board voted to distribute this grant to the proposal that found an innovative way to bring diverse groups of the community together - different segments of people from all over Centre County - to collaborate, create, and enjoy art that is representative of the community in which we live," explained Molly Kunkel, Executive Director at Centre Foundation.  "The grant proposal entitled 'Book Benches of Centre County' was put forward by the Child Development & Family Council (CDFC) and SPE Federal Credit Union (SPE FCU); we are excited to see this idea come to life in the coming months."


"The collaboration aspect of Centre Inspires was truly an enjoyable experience," noted Ann Walker, Executive Administrator at the CDFC.  "Everyone going through this process - all 39 of us submitting original proposals - met to discuss partnerships, county-wide ideas, brainstorm together, and make connections that can otherwise be challenging to make on a day-to-day basis behind your desk."


"We had a lot of fun envisioning where these benches might end up around the County and how their respective areas will choose to decorate them," said Sue Swain of SPE FCU.


"It's easy to picture families  enjoying a bench at Cold Stream Dam in Philipsburg, or a trout patterned one placed on the bank of Penn's Creek, or someone reading a book on one in Talleyrand Park," said Christa Hosterman of SPE FCU. 


The $100,000 grant from Centre Foundation will start the project off with 25 fiber-glass benches in the shape of an open book.  Similar in idea to Harrisburg's “Cow Parade” or other animal-themed, large-scale sculptures in various cities, these benches will be the first of their kind in the United States.  Benches will be placed throughout the County; each community will design and decorate their bench.  Local artist, Elody Gyekis, will help oversee the county-wide project; after a bench decoration theme is chosen by its respective community, an easy to follow, paint-by-numbers process will allow anyone in the community to help bring the bench to life.  Afterwards, the benches will be sealed, installed, and are expected to last at least 25 years.


Next year, Centre Inspires will focus on Health and Human Services.  The granting program will operate on a six-year cycle and rotate through all of Centre Foundation's interest areas, which also include Environmental Conservation & Awareness and Education & Life-Long Learning.


Donald Strickler was honored with Centre Foundation's Oak Tree Award for his unmatched commitment to the Foundation.  As an avid bridge player, he constructed a building for his bridge club to use; later, he donated the building to the Foundation.  After renovations were completed earlier this year, Centre Foundation moved into the spacious building located at 1377 Ridge Master Drive in State College.


Centre County PAWS was honored with the Kathryn S. Weaver Award.  The award is named for an early supporter of the Foundation and is given out to a local organization that is making an impact in the County.  PAWS takes in animals, provides needed veterinarian services, and places the animals with foster and forever homes.  Their work makes Centre County a more humane place to share with our four-legged friends.


Meagan Tuttle received the Future of the Foundation Award, which is given to next generation leaders in the community.  As a planner at the State College Borough, she brings a daily passion to her work and is empowering neighborhoods to think communally, encouraging businesses to think outside the box, and engaging in new transportation thinking that will help prepare our community for the future.  She has been a great partner for the Foundation to work with on projects that stretch across the County.


See more pictures from the evening on Facebook.

To learn more about the Book Benches of Centre County, please visit the project's Facebook page.

First Book Benches Unveiled During Arts Fest!